The World Today for August 15, 2017



The Grimmest of Ironies

Oil once fueled a boom in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria.

But plummeting oil prices, persistent terror threats and drought have caused economic turmoil in this West African nation of 170 million people.

Petroleum exports comprise some 70 percent of the Nigerian government’s revenues. So when oil prices began to plummet a few years back, public spending sagged, forcing the country to fall into recession last year, according to African Economic Outlook figures.

Thanks in part to help from OPEC, Nigeria is expected to post anemic growth this year.

But persistent corruption and sabotage at the hands of terror groups, insurgents and criminals have severely undercut the benefits of that turnaround, Reuters reported.

As much as 30 percent of the oil sent through the Niger River Delta is stolen, reported Stars and Stripes, citing oil industry estimates. Authorities claim former oil minister Diezani Alison-Madueke has absconded with $615 million, for example, wrote Bloomberg.

Last month, meanwhile, the militant Islamic group Boko Haram – an Islamic State affiliate in Africa that has plagued Nigeria for the better part of the last decade – ambushed an oil exploration convoy, killing 10 people and abducting several others.

Despite the Nigerian army’s sometimes-controversial advances against them, Boko Haram militants also continue to occupy much of the country’s remote north, exacerbating a famine already gripping the region. Around 1.7 million people have yet to return to their homes in the wake of the jihadists’ rampage, too.

The United Nations said in a recent report that famine conditions affect roughly 5 million people in northeastern Nigeria. But Boko Haram’s grip on the region means that aid workers simply can’t reach those in need.

These hardships have put Nigeria’s youth in a dire situation, the Washington Times reported. According to UNICEF statistics quoted in the article, 45 percent of the population is younger than 15, and 10.5 million of those children aren’t attending school.

Meanwhile, unemployment stands at 14.2 percent.

The grim irony of Africa’s energy superpower not being able care for its own has forced the nation to face a bleak reality.

“Having 10 million children out of school is literally a ticking time bomb for our nation,” said Nigerian Senate President Bukola Saraki. “An uneducated population will be locked in a cycle of poverty for their entire lives. These children could constitute the next generation of suicide bombers and militant terrorists.”

[siteshare]The Grimmest of Ironies[/siteshare]



Love Game

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pitched love and unity as the solution to the country’s problems with militants in Kashmir and sectarian violence throughout the country in his speech marking the 70th anniversary of India’s independence from Britain.

The anniversary also commemorates some 70 years of strife with Pakistan, of course, following the bloody Partition that killed more than a million people. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since 1947, and the proxy war in Kashmir has never really stopped.

Prior to Tuesday’s speech, Modi’s Hindu nationalist government had drawn a hard line against militancy in Kashmir, drawing flak for an incident in which army personnel tied a young man to the front of a jeep as a human shield, for instance.

And many have blasted the PM for tardy and wishy-washy condemnation of lynchings and other violence perpetrated by far-right Hindus in the name of protecting cows.

On Tuesday, though, Modi told Indians that “neither bullets nor curse-words will solve the Kashmir issue, only love will,” reported the Times of India. “Sectarianism can never benefit the nation,” he said later in his speech. “We can’t condone violence in the name of faith.”

[siteshare]Love Game[/siteshare]


Between Trump and a Hard Place

Just over three months in office, South Korean President Moon Jae-in is caught in between old enemy North Korea and increasing combativeness from the US.

North Korea’s Kim Jong-un has snubbed Moon’s offers of peace talks, test-firing a series of missiles instead, and Trump has threatened “fire and fury” that would burn almost as hot in Seoul as it would in Pyongyang, Reuters reported.

That’s put Moon in the awkward position of trying to push Trump to talk it out with Kim directly, when the only words either of them seem to utter are threats of war. On Tuesday the South Korean president stepped up his game by insisting that there will be no military action on the Korean peninsula without Seoul’s consent, Reuters said.

Fortunately, some are hopeful it won’t get to that point. China has banned imports of iron ore, iron, lead and coal from North Korea effective Tuesday as part of a new package of UN sanctions, noted the Washington Post. And Kim has put plans to fire missiles at Guam on hold while he waits to see what “the Yankees” do next, Reuters reported.

[siteshare]Between Trump and a Hard Place[/siteshare]


Progress, or Bust

Canada hinted it might abandon the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) altogether if the US insists on scrapping a bi-national dispute-resolution mechanism that has often resulted in the US losing battles over illegal subsidies and dumping.

With NAFTA members Canada, Mexico and the United States slated to hold their first session of talks on modernizing the trade body in Washington on Wednesday, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland also vowed to protect tariffs and quotas that keep domestic dairy prices high and imports low, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, she called for a “progressive” trade deal that raises labor standards, strengthens environmental protections and includes measures to boost economic opportunities for women and indigenous peoples, noted the Toronto Star.

That’s one vision of modernizing. But Trump likely has another sort in mind. Though the US runs a slight surplus in trade of goods and services with Canada, Trump has repeatedly called NAFTA a disaster that has resulted in job losses and a trade deficit with Mexico.

[siteshare]Progress, or Bust[/siteshare]


What’s in a Name?

As it turns out, Shakespeare had it wrong all along – a Rose might have turned out to be much different if she were called by any other name, such as Alexandra.

The name we’re given at birth codes societal expectations that could manifest in personality traits or even physical characteristics later in life, according to a recent study by researchers at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Parents name their babies without many clues about the kind of person they will eventually become.
However, the study hypothesizes that names are so powerful in how children are perceived that those with the same name have similar lived experiences that later on will show up in similar physical characteristics, Quartz reports.

Someone named Rose, for example, may be taken to be delicate and flower-like, influencing her behavior and appearance, whereas an Alexandra, whose name can be shortened to Alex, may feel more inclined to break gender stereotypes.

Across eight different studies led by the team, this turned out to be the case: Both humans and computers were able to significantly match a face to a name.

So what’s in a name? Apparently, a whole lot.

[siteshare]What’s in a Name?[/siteshare]

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